After London Internationals finished last week, I made a decision to postpone taking part in any official Pokemon tournaments at least until the next season kicks off. In my opinion this year’s circuit is pretty bad for many people for a number of reasons.
The biggest one is that we don’t get almost any information early enough. We’ve been bothering with this for a really long time and it’s not getting any better. We still don’t have almost any info on the remaining Internationals or stipends and travel awards that people have already started to fight for, entry fees for most Regionals (as far as I know) and, probably the biggest one, tournament format. We receive most of that information after we’re basically forced to book our flights for the event or sometimes even when the event is just about to start.
Another huge problem is the increased best finish limit combined with an increased CP bar for a Worlds invite AND increased CP gaps between top cut placings at Regionals and Internationals. This is something that might not affect all players but it’s got a pretty big deal to me. I live in Poland and we don’t have any tournaments here - not even Midseason Showdowns or PCs. This means that all of my CP needs to come from Regionals and Internationals. My finish at Internationals wasn’t that good - top 64 (no day two though) which awards me 80 CP and I’m OK with that. But let’s say I finished top 16 after going 11-3 and winning about 70% of my games. That awards me 180 CP, which is barely a third of an invite, so I would need to get 320 CP from just Regionals. With two really good runs I can obviously get an invite but that’s hard to do and you know that in the end we’re playing Pokemon and in two big tournaments something WILL go wrong. So I need to attend three or four Regionals, which would cost me roughly around €600 and the trip to worlds is another €1000+ not to mention the amount of time you need to put into this game to go to real life tournaments and actually do well. That’s simply not worth it. Why do I think that’s a problem? Because this system very strongly favours players with access to a lot of money. Or for example players living in “weaker” parts of the US, who are going to max out on their PCs and MSS’ without putting too much effort into it, attend a Regional or two and the American IC and then get their flights to worlds for a much lower price. This is obviously good for them and if i was in such a spot, I’d definitely go for it as well but this makes the circuit less competitive by a fair margin.
From my perspective participating in online tournaments makes a lot more sense. You don’t need to spend any money or time on traveling and from my experience, they’re a lot better organized with basically all information being available as soon as signups start and hosts basically always responding immidiately to your messages. There’s been a lot of complaints about the official circuit recently and this is my solution - let’s switch to the unofficial tournaments both online and grassroots, something Japan has been doing for years now. The prizes aren’t as big as in Internationals or Worlds (but as I said, making it to top 16 at Worlds wouldn’t cover all my season expenses) but I’m absolutely sure that they’ll get bigger once we get more people into them. Nugget Bridge Major gave out over $800 to the winner, Smogon is just about to host a VGC tourney with around $1400 on the line (free to enter for everyone). On the other hand London IC entry fee was £40 ($50). There were 549 Masters at the event. $17,500 was given out in VGC Masters division prizes. Difference? Just under $10,000. Something worth considering for sure.
Enough ranting, let’s move on to the team. I was struggling pretty hard to come up with a really good team so I decided to scout some high rated players on Showdown and saw @pokespace2 doing really well with Koko, Raichu, Scarf Lele, Celesteela, Garchomp and Milotic. I immidiately tried it out and I loved it. I changed a few things though (Koko item, Raichu Z move from Electric to Psychic). It worked really well except for Trick Room teams with Torkoal or sometimes Marowak, so I asked the creator of the team if he had that problem and what would he change. He immidiately said he’d use a Wide Guard Araquanid. After doing even more games on Showdown I got into high 1600s and decided not to expose the team anymore because I knew that almost everyone high placed on the VGC ladder was going to London. I switched to Battle Spot and did reasonably well in the first couple games. About two days before the tournament I managed to make top 10 in world ranking with a record of 33 wins and 6 loses.
Alright so now a few words about the team. I was leaning towards a more offensive team because of sudden death and also because I was expecting many defensive teams at the tourney, so being able to deal a lot of damage would make the games shorter, potentially less energy draining. Moreover, even though I usually prefer running more defense-oriented teams, I tend to think that offensive builds are less weak to RNG (mostly critical hits and additional effects like full paralysis and flinches) because of not relying on taking many hits.
Raichu is basically the fastest thing is this format, provides a lot of offensive pressure, its STAB attacks get boosted by both of my Terrains, which likely was my main reason for using it. Protect works really well for stalling out Trick Room and is simply a good move in general, better than everything else that I tested. Z-Psychic in Psychic Terrain KOs basically everything, even some semi bulky mons like Arcanine and Tapu Bulu, so having that option available was really handy, even when my opponent expected it.
I like Koko for his speed and being able to hit hard for both spread and single target damage. It’s one of the best Celesteela checks in the format and a fantastic mon in general.
A really fast Lele was chosen to create even more offensive pressure. Keeping it in the back is really handy as late game Scarf Psychic or Dazzling Gleam can lock up games. It also boosts Raichu’s Z-Move making it really powerful. I don’t think that Scarf Tapu Lele is bad at all, in my opinion Life Orb is a lot worse and I don’t get why people are even using it. I settled on Timid nature to outspeed max speed Pheromosa, Adamant Scarf Garchomp, boosted Porygon-Z and Eevee while still OHKOing 4 HP Tapu Koko in Psychic Terrain, so that my Celesteela can win from there.
Celesteela is likely the best mon in the format and its resists pair really well with the rest of the team. Both Raichu and Lele outspeed and OHKO opposing Tapu Koko provided that the correct Terrain is up, which sometimes can seal up the game. I decided not to include my spread as I think it’s pretty good and I might use it in future.
Garchomp wasn’t used too often but whenever I brought it, it did a lot of work. It does well against Marowak and Torkoal, both of which are huge threats for this team. It also hits Tapu Bulu really hard. I chose Dragon Claw because it does more damage to everything you’d want to use Rock Slide against. Focus Sash is a really good item as I can safely attack at least once and bring opponent’s Pokemon down to Tapu Lele, Koko or Raichu KO range.
The last Pokemon was used almost exclusively against Trick Room teams. Araquanid didn’t get too much attention but it’s a really good mon. I decided to run minimum speed just in case I play a Trick Room team with a Vikavolt on it (base 43), which is quite a threat and I wanted to underspeed Marowak anyway so that’s no big difference. EVs let me OHKO 252 HP / 4 Def Marowak while hitting a good HP number for Sitrus Berry recovery. Leech Life is here to help with Oranguru in Sun. Liquidation does more damage to basically everything else, even when it’s resisted, so that last move isn’t really needed. I briefly considered Toxic and kinda regret not using it because Porygon2 and Gastrodon turned out to be pretty problematic.
I lost to 000aj in 4th round, Dark Psiana in the 8th round (read his top 16 report here) and to a Spanish player in the final round. Did not make day two, final result - top 64 (56th place).
I think that’s it. If you have any questions, please let me know, I’ll be more than happy to answer them.